Mikaela Shiffrin wins 85th World Cup, can tie overall record Sunday
Mikaela Shiffrin earned her 85th World Cup win on Saturday and can tie the Alpine skiing World Cup victories record on Sunday.
Shiffrin won the first of back-to-back slaloms in Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic, site of her World Cup debut in 2011 at age 15, for her 11th victory in 22 starts this season.
It’s not the first time that song has been played after a Shiffrin victory this season.
“I don’t feel a lot of pressure to get this record because now I’m so close that it’s, like, just take a breath and enjoy the moments we’re in now,” she said. “It’s unbelievable to me how this season has gone already, and I’m trying to take the moment to enjoy it. FIS [International Ski Federation] posted on Instagram, ‘Is she going to do it this weekend?’ Finally, I saw all the comments, and people were like, ‘We don’t care. We just want to see good skiing.’ I was like, ‘Oh, finally people get it.’ I’m not worried about it. It might not happen tomorrow.”
Shiffrin, having her best season since her record 17-win campaign in 2018-19, is now one victory shy of the Alpine World Cup record held by Swede Ingemar Stenmark, who won 86 times between slalom and giant slalom in the 1970s and ’80s.
Shiffrin races in another slalom on Sunday in Spindleruv Mlyn, the last women’s race before February’s world championships. World championships races do not count as World Cups. The World Cup season resumes following worlds in late February.
“I’m always trying to think about everything else except these numbers because they just make me nervous,” she said. “I don’t have a reason to be nervous if I achieve 86 or 87 because I shouldn’t be in this position in the first place. So it’s only positives, but for sure everybody asks and then I feel pressure to do it, and then I don’t enjoy the races so much, but today it was just an amazing day. From the moment I woke up, I felt good.”
Shiffrin is on her second winning streak this season and has won nine of her last 14 races dating to Dec. 18. Last Tuesday, she won a giant slalom in Kronplatz, Italy, to break her tie with Lindsey Vonn for the women’s Alpine World Cup wins record. On Wednesday, she won another GS In Kronplatz.
She leads the standings for the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing, by more than 600 points through 27 of 39 scheduled races. At this rate, she could clinch her fifth overall title before March’s World Cup Finals.
She is currently tied with Vonn for the second-most women’s overall titles behind Austrian Annemarie Moser-Pröll, who won five in the 1970s.
“I’m barely making it through tomorrow before I need a couple of days off,” Shiffrin said.
Sanne Wevers, Olympic gymnastics champion, sets first competition since Tokyo
“Her focus now is to qualify for the Olympics in Paris,” a representative for Wevers wrote in an email. “We do not rule out that Sanne will remain active at the highest level after the Games. As long as Sanne retains the pleasure and desire to remain active at the highest level, anything is possible.”
The first major international competition of this year is the European Championships next month.
The top 10 nations, other than the already qualified Great Britain, Italy and France, qualify for the team event at this fall’s world championships, where the last teams to qualify for the Olympics will be decided.
Nations that do not qualify teams for the Olympics can still qualify gymnasts for individual events.
Wevers, 31, can become the oldest female Dutch Olympic gymnast in history and the first to compete in three Olympics, according to Olympedia.org.
In 2016, a 24-year-old Wevers won the Olympic balance beam title, relegating Americans Laurie Hernandez and Biles to silver and bronze. Wevers, the lone Dutchwoman to win an individual Olympic gymnastics medal, is the oldest Olympic women’s artistic gymnastics champion since 1968.
In Tokyo, Wevers was 14th in balance beam qualifying, missing the eight-woman final.
Mikaela Shiffrin finishes World Cup with one more win, two more records and a revelation
Shiffrin won the World Cup Finals giant slalom on the final day of the campaign, breaking her ties for the most career women’s giant slalom wins and most career podiums across all women’s World Cup races.
Shiffrin earned her record-extending 88th career World Cup victory, prevailing by six hundredths over Thea Louise Stjernesund of Norway combining times from two runs in Andorra on Sunday.
She won her 21st career GS, breaking her tie for the most all-time on the women’s World Cup with Vreni Schneider, a Swiss star of the 1980s and ’90s.
She made her 138th career World Cup podium across all events, breaking her tie for the most all-time on the women’s World Cup with Lindsey Vonn. Shiffrin earned her 138th podium in her 249th start, meaning she has finished in the top three in 55 percent of her World Cup races dating to her debut at age 15 in 2011.
Earlier this season, Shiffrin passed Vonn and then Ingemar Stenmark, a Swede of the 1970s and ’80s, for the most career Alpine skiing World Cup victories. She won 14 times from November through March, her second-best season after her record 17-win campaign of 2018-19.
In those years in between, Shiffrin endured the most difficult times of her life, was supplanted as the world’s top slalom skier and questioned her skiing like never before.
On Saturday afternoon, Shiffrin was asked what made the difference this fall and winter. There were multiple factors. She detailed one important one.
“I had a lot of problems with my memory,” she said in a press conference. “Not this season, so much, but last season and the season before that. I couldn’t remember courses. And when I was kind of going through this, I couldn’t keep mental energy for the second runs.”
Pre-race course inspection and the ability to retain that knowledge for a minute-long run over an hour later is integral to success in ski racing. Shiffrin is so meticulous and methodical in her training, historically prioritizing it over racing in her junior days, that inspection would seem to fit into her all-world preparation.
She didn’t understand how she lost that ability until she began working with a new sports psychologist last summer.
“That was a little bit like less focus on sports psychology and more focus on, like, psychology psychology and a little bit more grief counseling style,” she said. “Explaining what was actually going on in my brain, like chemical changes in the brain because of trauma. Not just grief, but actually the traumatic experience itself of knowing what happened to my dad, seeing him in the hospital, touching him after he was dead. Those are things that you can’t get out of your head. It had an impact. Clearly, it still does.”
Shiffrin had a “weird a-ha moment” after her first course inspection this season in November in Finland.
“I didn’t take that long to inspect, and I remembered the whole course,” she said. “Oh my gosh, I was like coming out of a cloud that I had been in for over two years.”
What followed was a win, of course, and a season that approached Shiffrin’s unrivaled 2018-19. Fourteen wins in 31 World Cup starts, her busiest season ever, and bagging the season titles in the overall, slalom and GS in runaways.
“After last season, I didn’t feel like I could get to a level with my skiing again where it was actually contending for the slalom globe,” she said. “And GS, I actually had a little bit more hope for, but then at the beginning of the season, I kind of counted myself out.
“I feel like my highest level of skiing has been higher than the previous couple of seasons, maybe higher than my whole career. My average level of skiing has been also higher than previous seasons, and my lowest level of skiing has also been higher.”
There are other reasons for the revival of dominance, though Shiffrin was also the world’s best skier last season (Olympics aside). She went out of her way on Saturday afternoon to credit her head coach of seven years, Mike Day, who left the team during the world championships after he was told he would not be retained for next season.
“He is as much a part of the success this entire season as he’s ever been,” said Shiffrin, who parted with Day to bring aboard Karin Harjo, the first woman to be her head coach as a pro.
“Ever since then, pretty much every time I put on my skis, I’m like, ‘OK, don’t be mediocre today,’” Shiffrin said in January.
During the highest highs of this season, Shiffrin felt like she did in 2018-19.
“It is mind-boggling to me to be in a position again where I got to feel that kind of momentum through a season because after that [2018-19] season, I was like, this is never going to happen again, and my best days of my career are really behind me, which it was kind of sad to feel that at this point four years ago,” said Shiffrin, who turned 28 years old last week. “This season, if anything, it just proved that, take 17 wins [from 2018-19] aside or the records or all those things, it’s still possible to feel that kind of momentum.”
After one last victory Sunday, Shiffrin sat in the winner’s chair with another crystal globe and took questions from an interviewer. It was her boyfriend, Norwegian Alpine skier Aleksander Aamodt Kilde.
“Excited to come back and do it again next year,” she replied to one question.